Urban regime theory maintains a privileged position of business power within governing coalitions. New institutionalism points to power asymmetries in the institutions and practices of governments and bureaucracies. Yet, it is precisely in this domain of urban governance where democratic innovations are presumed to hold their most radical potentials. In an effort to integrate advancements in urban research and democracy research, I propose democratic criteria for a global assessment of participatory governance arrangements (empowered advocacy, accountable administration). These arrangements are conceived as embedded in a broader democratic context, i.e. institutions of local government (accountable leadership, representation, self-rule, rule of law) and metropolitan governance (advocacy of affected localities, capacity for collective action).